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On the subject of fun on-line games, I recently discovered FreeRice (www.freerice.com) and I maybe one of the last people on Earth to have heard about it. See below.

Me: btw, here’s a game that i think you’ll like http://www.freerice.com
Cousin: ahh i love that site, i got addicted to it a few months ago
Me: haha, am i really the last person to jump on the bandwagon?
Me (in my head): damn.

But for anyone who yet to hear about this site, allow me to make the introductions.

About: FreeRice is charity site aiming to eliminate world hunger and improve English vocabularies everywhere. Launched on October 7, 2007 by John Breen, a computer programmer from Indiana, FreeRice is the sister site to thehungersite.com, therainforestsite.com and Poverty.com.

The Game: Upon entering FreeRice, visitors are presented with an English word (usually a very sophisticated and rare word often found in old novels or in SAT books). The user must then decipher the word’s meaning and pick from four options presented. If correct, twenty grains of rice will be donated through the United Nations’ World Food Programme. If you keep playing until you reach a donation of 100,000 grains of rice, you will be presented with the following message: “You have donated 100,000 grains of rice, may you have a lifetime of happiness…..” Afterwards, your donation reverts back to 0 grains of rice.

Who pays for all this rice? Advertisers, whose banners are located at the bottom of the site. When I read this detail, I thought that FreeRice is truly ingenious to have created a viral marketing campaign for world hunger awareness and on-line advertising opportunities that then successfully provides an actual charitable donation. More companies that engages in cause marketing and PR agencies with specialties in on-line outreach should take note and start brainstorming.

Possible Scam: For the skeptics and cynics out there that might be inclined to think that this site is a scam, please read the verdict by Snopes.com (an Urban Legend myth buster site).

PR Notes: For anyone that doubts FreeRice’s connection to the United Nations, it should be noted that the press contact for FreeRice is the international team of communications specialists (aka PR people) from the World Food Programme.

Additionally, for anyone wanting to know how to gauge the success of a viral marketing/on-line PR campaign/blogger engagement program, I would say that generating coverage in top-tier print, broadcast and radio is a good sign that you’re doing something right. As the team behind FreeRice can attest, they have been pretty successful so far:

Special thanks to my former colleague from The Agency for introducing me to FreeRice and to everyone else whose been offering me story ideas and feedback. It’s nice to be on the receiving side of the pitch for once.